Sacra Conversazione

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Simone Martini : Maestà, 1315

Sacra conversazione or Santa conversazione ( it. = Holy conversation / conversation) is a term introduced in the 19th century for the representation of the Madonna with the baby Jesus in company with saints. “The term 'Sacra Conversazione' suggests a conversation that doesn't even take place in pictures. It is a nineteenth century misunderstanding. Five hundred years ago people spoke, more soberly, of 'Madonnas with saints'. When dialogic traits come into play, it is less in the picture itself than in the relationship between the portrayed person and the viewer. "

This type of art-historical iconography is dedicated to the depiction of an enthroned Madonna surrounded by saints. The image type has developed in Italy since the Trecento and goes back to earlier Maestà representations . In contrast to the widespread pictorial form of a polyptych , where each figure is assigned its own space on the side panels , the participants in a Sacra Conversazione are in a uniform pictorial space. Fra Angelico's Annalena altar with the enthroned Madonna and three saints on either side is considered the first known rectangular altar panel of the Renaissance in the sense of a sacra conversazione. Excellent examples of this type of image emerged in Venice in the 16th century, but it also caught on in the rest of Italy. Examples of Venice were Giorgione's Pala by Castelfranco and Giovanni Bellini's altarpiece from San Giobbe in Venice.

Examples of such pictures taken north of the Alps are rather rare. Similar types of images are the Virgo inter virgines (Latin for "virgin among virgins") in the Netherlands and especially in the Rhenish region the Maria in the Paradise Garden .


  • W. ALberg: The 'Madonna con Santi'. Representations of Venetian and Florentine painting. Dissertation Bochum 1984
  • Simon Beer (ed.): Sacra conversazione. Schwabe, Basel 1999, ISBN 3-7965-1348-4 .
  • Karl Kaspar: The iconographic development of the Sacra conversazione. Diss. Tübingen 1954.
  • HA Peters: Giovanni Bellini or Antonella di Messina? On the creation of the so-called Sacra Conversazione in Venice. Bonn 1981

Web links

Commons : Sacra Conversazione  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Norbert Huse, Wolfgang Wolters: Venice. The art of the Renaissance. Munich 1996. p. 217
  2. Originally in the former monastery of San Vincenzo d'Annalena, today (2020) in the Museo di San Marco, Florence. Gabriele Bartz: Fra Angelico , Könemann, Cologne 1998, pp. 34 and 37–38